What is progressive?

Learning from One of Progressive Thought …

I had the most amazing experience of seeing Alfie Kohn himself last Thursday!  It was an amazing and rare experience to listen to someone who is charged with such passion and dedication to the field of education – from a progressive stance.  It is also refreshing to hear someone admit that becoming progressive is a process – once a traditional teacher of English Alfie has evolved into one of the most powerful promoters of alternative education pathways.

Seeing him made me want to share two things.  One, a document that Alfie outlines key factors of progressive education and Two, a piece of writing I have been saving with the debate of using it for blog purposes or publishing or what have you…

Tonight, I have decided that it was worth sharing.  So without further chattering:

One (The article from Alfie Kohn: “Progressive Education – Why It’s Hard to Beat, But Also Hard to Find”)

A must read!!!  Located at Alfie’s site:

http://www.alfiekohn.org/article/progressive-education/?print=pdf

Do not scroll further until you visit that link and read that article!!!!  You should read his link!  If you get anything out of this blog post, go there!  But, if you have an additional extra minute read this: 

Two (My piece of writing that I was reminded of when seeing Alfie, as I referenced him at the end of it):

The other day, I was reading Their Name is Today:  Reclaiming Childhood in a Hostile World.

I know, reading leisurely books is maybe not my strong point.  I was recently informed I should read Gone Girl or take another stab at the George R.R. Martin series, Game of Thrones.  But, instead I am reading Their Name is Today (Ok, and Always Looking Up but at a rate of about one chapter a week, so that may not count as a fun non-Early Childhood related book) and I am thinking I will read a book by Janet Lansbury next.  C’est la vie.  I am a little wrapped up in my field.  Anyways while deeply engrossed in a chapter on “taking back childhood” it occurred to me that my dad has given me one of the best gifts of childhood, the lack of expectations.  Don’t get me wrong it is not that he did not have a standard for us to live by but not in the same ways that children are held to expectations today (and when I was a child).  And because of this I feel I was given the freedom as an adult to pursue what I was passionate about and set my own expectations for greatness.  So what do I mean by this?  I was held to the standard of being kind, compassionate, hard working, and respectful but I was never pressured to be the captain of the team, the honor student, the math-lete, the lead role in the musical, or prom queen.  It wasn’t something that was ever encouraged or forced upon me.  Don’t get me wrong.  I played a few school sports.  I muddled my way through a few years of soccer, my best goal being one I accidentally scored on my own team.  I hung out with the brainy people as a quiz bowl team member or envirothon member, somehow having a knack for questions about the Jewish religion and soil.  Don’t ask me why or how, I just did.  I was involved in things… this group and that, etc. etc. etc.  I wasn’t as privileged as some but I did have many blessings that some children may have not.  I participated in life events of the typical public school child.  And it is not to say I wasn’t rewarded for things or encouraged.  Once my dad thought the idea of promoting good math grades could be motivated by a shrimp cocktail (it did work for a moment and it wasn’t the cocktail’s fault, I was really horrendous at math).  And I had family attend my sport games on occasion or the banquets at season’s end.  But, the reality was while I was at home or at school being a normal teenager some of my friends were being forced down paths they did not want or understand:  the next prettiest, funniest, smartest girl ever.  I dealt very little with that pressure and now I can look back and see how that has benefited me, even today.  It is not to say don’t ever enroll your child into a class or sport.  It is to say honor them in not creating every experience into a pressure zone or competition.  I see so many children today being pushed to go above and beyond for reasons that are far from intrinsic.  My greatest accomplishments were ones I desired to achieve on my own.  It turns out that they were things that my family could be proud of too but that wasn’t the main motivation for them.  I did not work hard so that I could obtain praise, trophies, ribbons, awards, etc.  But, I also did not crumble to the point of no return when I failed.  Today we teach children that failure is life ending.  We teach them to feel pressure from the very early years of life.  How many letters can you name?  What accelerated reading level are you at?  What color belt did you earn?  How many goals did you score?  Did you make it to the finals?  Are you scholarship material?  It never ends! The pressure for excellence is intense and it is taking a toll on humanity.  Children are programmed from the very beginning to not be comfortable with failure and live up to expectations at all times.  But, as adults I think we are missing out on how this impacts children emotionally and mentally.  Give children the gift of finding joy in their own accomplishments, step back from creating a child that needs a trophy to feel whole.

 

Fuel for your fire:

  • Alfie Kohn deserves mounds of credit for helping educators stray away from empty extrinsic praise.  Take a moment to explore “5 Reasons to Stop Saying Good Job”: http://www.alfiekohn.org/parenting/gj.htm

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So all in all – props to the great parents, educators, and great change-makers of the world!

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Advocacy

Ode to the Super Mom

 So here is me on most days … Ready to conquer the world and play!

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Yep.  Play!  Because that is crucial to human development and early childhood.  So when I look at my $60000+ in student loans some days I am like “yikes!” But most days I am like “yeah!  I got this!”.  So you can imagine I feel quite invested in my work with the children – and not just because of the dollar signs but because I love what I do, I feel it is important, and I see how children benefit from it everyday!

People ask me “why don’t you just teach public school and get all the benefits and security and money…. Waa. Wa wa wa wa”.  photo 2photo 3

They are shocked and appalled that I would invest so much of my time, money, and self in “baby sitting” and silly affairs such as “Play”.  Well I do not sit on babies and PLAY is serious stuff (but that is another topic in need of a  blog posting).

AND… “Been there done that, and it is not for me” is the short story…

 When you are an advocate for play and early childhood and you are put in the PS (public school) box.  PS becomes a bunch of BS (excuse my blunt language)… I just can’t do it.  When I am in that arena I have one million things going through my head about what the children are missing (play, recess, social development, autonomy, identity, time, joy, etc.) that I can’t seem to open that scripted book and shove all that material and testing in their little heads.   It just goes against everything I have worked towards for children.  Don’t get me wrong there are some great crusaders out there that can do it in a fairly appropriate way and they will change the world for some young children  – but my battle is not fought inside out from the PS but outside in.

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Sure I want everyone to hear Vivian Paley’s message of “who will save the kindergarten?”  (http://www.naeyc.org/content/who-will-save-kindergarten) because it is important.  (It was a great keynote to see).  Someone has to do it (save the kindergarten) and I want to help too but just not from the PS platform.

 So I am here in sunny CA  living the dream of an advocate and early childhood educator as I PLAY and promote PLAY and protect PLAY each day in a progressive nature preschool.  And I love it!  The children love it!  And I get to see them learn and grow each day in amazing ways.

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So now you are wondering what does this have to do with becoming a Super Mom…

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Well here it is… Truth is I am not a Mom yet and even though I want to be someday soon – I am not!  And it puts me at a super disadvantage.  Because some days I am stuck in my young naive and triumphant ways – busy trying to conquer the EC world. That I forget just how hard it is to be a Mom… So I will be teaching, blogging, book club-ing, volunteering, reading an EC book,  going to trainings, working on school projects, and when it comes to others being a part of those things or taking on similar projects – I think wouldn’t it be great if everyone put in their all and dedicated their whole self to this cause!  It would change the world for sure!

AND… out of my ignorant mouth or head pops up “I don’t understand why people just can’t … Blah blah blah”.   And later I realize … “Oh yeah… They are a Mom”.  One of the most important jobs in the world!

They are the people who brought the little people into this world… First people to love them, to teach them, and first people to make children their priority.  Super important work!

So while I am busy in the EC world wondering what everyone else is doing – 80% of the time I could really step back and see all the amazing people doing what they can and trying to be a Super Mom at the same time.  And if we really think about it all those small things and big things mixed together add up – they count!  So I want to say Thank You to all those Moms!

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Because truth is I have no idea how I am going to do it!  How am I going to be this loving, nurturing, holistic, present Mom and still change the EC world?  Because while most days I look like this.

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Some days I look like this.

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So if I already have those days how will I ever be on top of my game on both being a teacher and a Mom?

I don’t have the answers yet.

But what really came out of all this wondering is that I know a lot of SUPER MOMS!  And not because they have perfected the process but because they do their little parts in the world around them – whether it is career, community, or what have you and they have also been loving, caring, compassionate, and, loving Moms – all at the same time.  They haven’t perfected balancing the world and Mommy-hood but they have done a darn good job at managing everything while still loving, nurturing, and providing for their little one.  I see them make consciousnesses choices everyday about the well being and happiness for their children.  And most likely if I know them then that means they are letting their child PLAY – which is one giant step towards making the right decisions for your little person (in my biased but educated opinion).

So here is to the Moms!

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 Ignore all the young overachieving judging comments from people – because chances are they never sat down to think about just how hard it might be.  That saying – ” ignorance is bliss”…. might be true but “understanding is the first step to acceptance”.  Truth be told the world could use a whole lot more understanding and acceptance.  We could use more praise for Moms and less judgment – isn’t that what we want to teach our children anyways?
So I know today I won’t figure out how to balance it all yet – because I am not in that world yet.  But I can extend my apologies and gratitude to all those Super Moms in the world and challenge others to do the same.

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